First impressions on public accountability trackers 📊

I've had a few positive yet unintended consequences since launching accountability trackers on the site homepage recently.


The implementation

I launched the first iteration of public accountability trackers a little over a month ago on September 5th. That version only had one tracker, GitHub commits to personal projects.

Initial version.

Days later, two of the other trackers were added (and then the fourth and currently latest one, for Mandarin Chinese, was only added a few days ago).

My intuition as a software developer told me that that these trackers should be automated - I really didn't want to have to manually update them every day. Hence, my first tracker was completely automated. It pulled all of my recent commits, filtered for the last seven days of commits, removed commits that were made to repositories that I don't own, and then tallied them up.

Spoiler: it's not automated yet.

The unintuitive piece of this is that the manual component has been the most valuable part of the trackers. It forces me to look at the website every single day and update a number or two. And usually, that process kickstarts a desire to do something about at least one of those numbers before updating them (e.g. for Mandarin Chinese, learning a few more words), and often even making an improvement or two to the site since I'm here anyway, and think of new ideas each time.

What's happened is that I've unintentionally formed a habit stack around the simple yet gratifying process of updating a number on the website daily. And the snowball/compounding effect is real.

Additional lessons

When I launched this feature, I only included one or two trackers to start: git commits and run/walk distance per week. I've since added two more trackers, and am considering a few others.

Something cool I've found is that I'm rising to the goals I publicly set.

Especially once I've gotten a critical mass of momentum going on them pubicly, which I think is the trick.

The key thing I've found critical for establishing that minimum necessary momentum is setting the goal to be incredibly modest initially while I'm still shaping up the habit and deciding whether I enjoy it. Once I've established it as a routine, then I can methodically increment the goal.

Overall, I've increased the goals on all of the trackers multiple times and have been feeling pretty good about it at each stage. Which tells me that I can continue to raise my ambitions in a way that is healthy and incremental, without risking burnout.

Recent screenshot of the trackers.

Another thing is not being too critical of myself up when I'm falling behind, but instead amping myself up to bounce back.

For example, if you look at the screenshot above, I haven't recorded as many singing sessions in the last 30 days. I don't view it as a failure, but as a reminder to get back to it.

Closing thoughts

When thinking about what the north star for this website feels like, I arrive at something along the lines of:

Any new line of text or code should feel rewarding during creation and useful in production, ideally both to me and others, without an outsized maintainenance cost.

By that measure, I consider these trackers a success and a feature that I will continue building out and maintaining. Especially as I consider adding more depth/breadth, I expect more of it to get automated (but perhaps never 100% of it!).


Last Updated: Wed Oct 19 2022

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